Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Relaxed Shabbat in Flaming Gorge

Day 22: Sept. 17, 2011

We spent a peaceful night in our exquisite campsite last night, except for the fact that at some point it started to rain. We have been very lucky with weather on this trip (as we usually are!), but it’s always preferable not to have to deal with rain, especially when you are in the mountains. These narrow windy roads can be scary enough sometimes, without the added worry of being wet. So when we woke up and it was raining quite hard, we simply went back to sleep! I didn’t have a lot planned for us today, and the first part--take a boat onto the Flaming Gorge reservoir--was obviously scratched due to the weather. Which meant a sleep-in!

We finally got out of bed around 9am, and really took our time getting breakfast, and by the time we finished, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. The sky was blue, and it was just a gorgeous, albeit cool, mid-morning. So we took a short walk on the trail to the Firefighter’s Memorial, which the campground was named for. This was a plaque overlooking “our” valley, dedicated to three firefighters who lost their lives while battling a forest fire in the national recreation area. It was a beautiful spot for a tribute like that, looking over the trees and valley.

Then Joey and I had a discussion--should we do anything else, or maybe we should just set up our lawn chairs, and read our books and gaze out over the view all day. It would have been a perfectly fine thing to do, actually! But then we decided we would at least go take a tour of the Flaming Gorge Dam. So off we went.

The dam tour was very interesting…the dam is just huge. It’s too bad we didn’t get to really tour the Bonneville Dam when we were there, but the shape seemed very different. We had views from both sides, and from the bottom.

Besides admiring the white concrete of the dam itself against the red rocks, we also admired the wingspans of the turkey vultures who were drifting on the air currents in front of us. Our guide pointed out how several of the birds were perched on the struts of the nearby tower, warming themselves in the sun. One of them had his wings completely open to catch the rays--it seemed like a very sane thing to be doing just then, because the weather had really warmed up. If you look at the photo close-up, though, you can really see how ugly these birds are.

After our tour, it was 1:30, so we ate some lunch and then thought maybe we would rent a boat on the lake after all. So we went to the nearby marina, but by the time we got there, a big black cloud was coming up and the wind had picked up again, and the warm day had disappeared. We figured we’d freeze on the lake, so then we had to decide: back to the campground, or continue north back towards I-80 and our eventual trip back home? We decided to head north.

As soon as we crossed the dam again, however, we had to take a brief detour so I could photograph the dam from the river side (the photo I posted above). The Green River at that point is fantastic for tubing (alas for the cold weather we’ve had here!) and fishing, especially for trout. In fact, we saw a lot of fish at the base of the dam during our tour.
We parked Mo in a parking lot which is set up for boaters and rafters. The lot is still about 400 feet or so above the river; the put-in point is down below and then they have to bring the car back up to park it. We found a foot path leading down to the riverside, and we started to walk down it It was steep, with a number of steps just a little too high for my comfort. I was dressed too warmly for this--the path was all rock, no shade, and the sun had come out again, and I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt--but I followed Joe and Roxy, taking photos all the way. They seemed to have no trouble with it.
We got to the bottom and it was REALLY nice--the river moves very quickly there and the sound was so lulling, and there were very few people around besides us. I enjoyed sitting on the rocks, and Roxy joined me, despite the fact that they were steep. She managed to get to the edge for a drink despite the angle. However, when it came time to climb back up, I realized that the steep hike was just too much for me. So Joe gallantly left me with Roxy at the bottom of the path, climbed back up, and drove Mo down to pick me up. I have simply GOT to get in better hiking shape for our next trip! On the other hand, if I had climbed up the path, we would have gotten caught in the rain--because as soon as Joe got to the bottom to pick me up, the sky clouded over, and it started raining on us as we drove back up.

A mile or so along the road, we had to stop for yet another viewpoint--the dam and reservoir area from the south. It was still raining lightly but not too much, and I was able to take some more photos. I’d say this place is well worth a visit, especially for people who like to fish! And if we come here again, we have got to come when it is warmer--I was so disappointed not to go kayaking or rafting or something on the lake or river. It really is a water-lover’s ideal destination. Not too crowded, and views to be gaga for. I took this panorama photo, I hope it comes out okay in the blog (click on it to make it show up on the entire page.)

The two-lane highway from Flaming Gorge to I-80 is marked as scenic on the map, and it really is amazing. I thought I’d seen a lot of panoramas and overlooks already, but this was really something else again. We left the lakeside and soon after crossed back into Wyoming again (the 6th time on this trip we’ve passed a “Welcome to Wyoming” sign!) I think maybe Utah and Wyoming could be in a competition for the most beautiful vistas. We stopped at one place where we just couldn’t stop drinking in the views--the shades of dark and sage greens, the red and white and gray striped rocks, all blended together. It was fantastic. I tried another panorama for this.
It was about 5pm when we finally got to the interstate near Rock Springs, WY. We stopped at a Flying J to fill the gas tank, and the stop was delayed slightly by a small entanglement between Mo and a rock next to the parking lot (why do people decorate with rocks, anyway? They are just hazards!) After that, we drove a short 1.5 miles to the Wild Horse Viewing Area. Southwestern Wyoming has a large population of wild horses. Because they have no natural predators, the herds increase very quickly, putting a strain on the rangeland and leading to starvation for the horses. So the Bureau of Land Management counts and culls the herds regularly, and they put the extra horses, burros and mules up for “adoption”. There is a wild horse corral facility in Rock Springs, and there is a place to view the horses. They were GORGEOUS.
Joe has been admiring horses all along our trip, and he wanted to adopt one of the little frisky colts we saw prancing and dancing in the corral. There were more horses than I expected, and they looked to be in excellent condition. If you are interested, it costs on average about $185 to adopt a horse, and the requirements include an enclosure of a mere 20’ x 20’. Of course, that seems a little small for a horse who grew up running free on the range. But the food is probably better in captivity. Anyway, that was a very fun stop.
By then it was 6pm and we got back on the highway for about 45 minutes. We stopped at a rest stop to make dinner, and then decided to just stay here for the night. So that’s where I’m writing this--the Mile 144 rest area on Interstate 80 in Wyoming. I have decided to set a new course home, however. Nothing really fabulous is jumping out at us to visit along I-80, and for a mere 150 miles more, we can route ourselves home via I-70 instead. We travelled I-80 west on this trip (as well as in 2010 and 2008) and east last year from mid-Nebraska onward. We’ve never taken I-70 east, and we took it west back in 2007, but only as far as Indianapolis. So we are going to swing south from Cheyenne, WY to Denver, and then pick up I-70. Besides being new scenery, this will also give us two of our missing Midwest state stickers--Kansas and Missouri, bringing our new state sticker total to 6 for this trip (and leaving us with a mere 6 states in the continental US to visit in Mo!)


Tom M said...

So, Dr. Joe will be riding his horse to the office? A horse in an HP back yard would be interesting.

As I look back we preferred rt 70 to 80 for the return trip.

Great pictures and really neat writing.

Roxy seems to travel well.

Debbie and Joe said...

Actually, Tom, Roxy seems to be on a hunger strike of some sort. She won't eat anything except people food. We've tried three different kinds of dog food so far and she turns up her nose. Spicy curried beef, however, is good with her.